Mitt Romney’s choice of Republican Congressman and budget guru Paul Ryan as his running mate has profoundly altered the presidential race. In selecting the wonkish, articulate Ryan, Mitt Romney has enhanced his campaign, and thereby his chances of winning the presidency, by arming the GOP ticket with an eloquent mouthpiece whose bold policy prescriptions strengthen Romney’s campaign with a reform-minded seriousness the Obama-Biden ticket simply cannot match.
Not surprisingly, even though Ryan has been Romney’s running mate for less than a week, the polls already reflect Americans’ buoyed confidence in the Romney-Ryan combo. Both Gallup and Rasmussen had Romney up by two in polls released days after Ryan’s announcement. Romney has also gained ground in some key swing state polls.
From a policy standpoint, the Ryan choice resolved all questions regarding Romney’s positions on the most important issues (economic) this election. By choosing Ryan, Romney has unabashedly affiliated himself with the reform wing of the GOP, put to rest any lingering doubts about his conservative bona fides, and appropriated for his cause a man whose bold ideas and able public defense of them call to mind the party’s best days when good policy intersected with good politics, e.g. Reagan’s defense buildup, 1990s welfare reform, Bush’s tax cuts, etc.
Importantly, on a broader political level, Romney’s choice ensures 2012 will not be a repeat of 2008, when a lack of planning and serious forethought gave way to a shotgun Republican vice presidential selection based not on policy substance or fitness for office, but on an urgent need to reinvigorate a lackluster campaign. The results speak for themselves.
In complete contrast here, after prevailing in the Republican primaries and polling evenly with Obama even before choosing Ryan, Romney chose Ryan from a position of surging political strength. And by choosing Ryan, the Romney campaign has fueled the momentum it gained from the primaries, and it is now poised to build on that strength towards the general election. Indeed, watching the energetic, youthful Ryan campaign in Colorado following his selection reveals just how much heft the campaign has gained in just a short period of time. His smile and charisma call to mind a great Democratic politician who captured the affections of a generation, and we do not mean President Obama.
In both style and substance, then, the Ryan choice was an unadulterated success. Further, Ryan’s selection answered the implicit question posed by the Romney campaign theme: Believe In America. But what kind of America? The Ryan choice means Romney believes in an America that works, lives within its means, and does not hide behind vapid slogans in service of a failed 1960s agenda. In other words, it shows Romney believes America would be better if all Americans worked and succeeded as he has. Accordingly, he and his new running mate plan to take America in a vastly different direction than the one President Obama envisions and has ushered in. The turnaround cannot come soon enough.
Perfectly consistent with and complementary of Romney’s vision are Ryan’s views, gleaned from his budget proposals and myriad YouTube videos. As Ryan told the president at the February 2010 White House healthcare summit, he has a different vision of Washington’s role in the citizen’s life. Watching Ryan school the Democrats on the policy minutiae and gimmickry of Obamacare, it is evident he, in contrast to the opposition, actually knows what he is talking about on the issues, and he cares deeply for how legislation will practically affect Americans, rather than how it will sell politically. His boldness in advancing sensible Medicare reform is completely inconsistent with a re-election above all mindset. The same cannot be said of the current White House occupant.
Finally, Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan may have the incidental benefit of elevating the substance and tone of the political discourse over the next three months. At a recent speech at Georgetown University, Ryan said, “Serious problems like those we face today require charitable conversation.” In the wake of the Obama campaign’s malicious and false attacks on Mitt Romney, and Joe Biden’s continuous gaffes that call into question his mental capacity, all Americans should relish the thought of mud slinging giving way to charitable conversation, a serious appraisal of the challenges we face, and a serious evaluation of which presidential ticket has the best solutions to address them. By choosing Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has deftly equipped himself to do just that.